If you haven't read the first instalment of this series, "The Queen of the Tearling," this review might include spoilers or make absolutely no sense.
Kelsea's in charge of the Tearling, a society on the verge of collapse as the dreaded Red Queen and her army of Mort soldiers prepare their attack.
To make matters worse, Kelsea has been going into fugue states (did we know about fugue states before Breaking Bad?) that take her to a time before an event known as The Crossing. In this time she follows a woman named Lily, who is abused by her husband and living in a world of strict government surveillance, 1984, essentially.
Kelsea's also being visited by a terrifying creature that materializes out of fire. This "dark thing" promises to give her the secret behind the Red Queen's demise if she hands over her necklace, a powerful blue sapphire that appears to grant Kelsea magical powers.
On top of this, she's still gotta run the kingdom as best as she can.
I enjoyed this book, for me it took a darker turn than the first and for me that's always a good thing. There were a lot of passages that I feel were influence by Stephen King, people finding tears in their reality and influencing people in other dimensions or times, it was really well done.
I can also sympathise with some of the criticism, the sapphire necklace appears to work as a deus ex machina, solving all of Kelsea's problems whenever they arise. Also, there are horrifying rape and self harm passages written in explicit detail that might act as a trigger. In the first book, Kelsea is obsessed with how "plain" and "un-pretty" she is but in the second book her magical sapphire necklace solve that problem by making her beautiful. The fact that becoming "beautiful" for Kelsea involves losing a lot of weight is also problematic.
All of those criticisms aside, what I enjoyed the most is the feeling of family and camaraderie that is created within the Tear base. You genuinely feel for their plight and root for them the entire way along, which in my mind is the sign of a well written novel. I will be reading the third one in this series because I couldn't stand not knowing what happens.
I recommend this novel to ages 17 and up!